A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer will not be charged in connection with the shooting death of Danquirs Franklin, the District Attorney’s office stated Wednesday.
Officer Wende Kerl, a white woman, shot and killed the 27-year-old black man March 25 after responding to 911 calls of an armed man at a Burger King. A gun was recovered at the scene, according to police.
Franklin’s death sparked criticism of the officers’ behavior as well as demonstrations following the release of Officer Kerl’s bodycam video.
The scene captured on video shows Franklin squatting beside a car when Kerl arrives. After being told to drop the weapon or put it on the ground about 20 times, Franklin’s right hand slowly appears and Kerl shoots him twice. In the bodycam footage, Franklin’s words are barely audible, but he appears to say something to the effect of, “You told me to…,” before collapsing.
While “there is no dispute” that Kerl shot and killed Franklin, the district attorney’s office “could not prove to a unanimous jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Kerl’s belief that she faced an imminent threat of death of great bodily harm was unreasonable,” wrote District Attorney Spencer B. Merriweather in a letter addressed to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief.
Review of evidence
Merriweather reviewed the autopsy report, various witness statements and transcripts of interviews with Officers Kerl and Larry Deal, who can be heard on the bodycam video yelling, “Put it down! Put it down now!” following Kerl’s request that Franklin disarm, Merriweather said in his letter.
A committee also closely watched all the available video evidence.
The Burger King surveillance video captured images of Franklin arriving with two children, said Merriweather in his letter. The surveillance video depicts Franklin “as significantly agitated,” added the DA, who wrote that Franklin can be seen chasing one employee, striking another and “brandishing his firearm throughout the dining room of the restaurant.”
A cellphone video recorded by an employee also captured Franklin “pointing the gun” at an employee, he wrote.
“My review committee closely and repeatedly examined Officer Kerl’s body-worn camera,” wrote Merriweather.
Franklin ‘in the process of putting the gun on the ground’
The committee had the opportunity to view the video “multiple times at real speed, slow motion, and frame-by-frame,” wrote Merriweather.
This allowed “the viewer to conclude that the decedent was in the process of putting the gun on the ground at the time of the shooting,” he said. However, the events unfolding in real time “within tenths of a second” do not give responding officers the opportunity to pause and rewind, he added.
The “rapidly evolving nature of these events” is reflected in the “different accounts of how the gun was positioned by all who were present,” Merriweather said. For example, Deal saw the gun muzzle as pointed at Kerl, while Kerl “was not sure which direction the muzzle was pointed” and an eyewitness saw the muzzle as pointed at the ground.
Merriweather also noted that the evidence of Franklin saying, “You told me to…,” instantly after he was shot is “insufficient” to prove Kerl’s perceptions of danger unreasonable. The law permits an officer the right to protect her life and the lives of others by acting on her “reasonable perception of the threat confronting her,” wrote Merriweather.
“It can be lawful for an officer to take lethal action before it is too late to repel a deadly attack,” he concluded.
Once a hopeful graduate
In 2010, The Charlotte Observer profiled Franklin in his quest to earn his diploma from Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, and the following year, reported that he planned to enroll at the Art Institute of Charlotte where he hoped to study media arts in pursuit of a career in film and music.
Franklin was born to a drug addict and had cocaine in his system at birth, the paper reported. He grew up with no father but enjoyed the love and support of his grandmother, who died in 2008, the paper said. His mother, who kicked her cocaine habit in 2007, gushed with pride, as did a social worker and one of his teachers, The Observer reported.
“I finished high school,” Franklin told the paper. “I proved everybody wrong who said I wasn’t going to make it.”
It’s not known if Franklin attended the Art Institute of Charlotte, which closed permanently in 2018.
Protesters who gathered at Marshall Park in March lined a heart-shaped chalk memorial on the concrete with candles. Franklin’s name and the words “FATHER” and “HERO” were written inside the memorial.